Meet Microsoft’s 2020 MBA Class: Cathy Zaragoza


MBA program: Yale School of Management

MBA concentration: Management science

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Primary school and major: Princeton, art history

Current title: Service architect

How would you describe your role to your mother? “I connect the dots between different partners and make sure our HR programs are documented and scaled to deliver the best possible employee experience.” y is).

One fun fact about me that people would be surprised at is … My top track for 2020 on Spotify was “Come See About Me” by the Supremes. I am an old soul.

What was your greatest personal or professional achievement? Before I went to business school, I had only worked in nonprofit educational institutions and startups. I still look back on my time at AmeriCorps and work in education as one of the most challenging and impactful years of my career.

I owe all my professional resilience and dissatisfaction to these experiences and would have no hesitation in telling anyone to spend a few years in the service. At that point, anything could be thrown my way and it still wouldn’t be as challenging as the countless times I had to plan and perform for 150 people with a team of four and a budget of $ 1,000, or the times that I had to build IKEA furniture in the office on the weekends while writing federal grant applications to triple our annual operating budget so we could hire more staff. To this day, colleagues point out how calm I can be when difficult situations arise. It’s all thanks to my 501c3 days.

Why did you choose MSFT? Finding the right work culture was my top priority when hiring. When I visited Microsoft’s campus during my internship interview, I felt at home straight away (which honestly doesn’t happen to me very often). As a woman of color, I also had to learn to carefully navigate rooms or to emerge in different ways. During my MBA internship at Microsoft, I felt as comfortable as showing up myself without covering or being anything else. That rarely felt and I didn’t want to give that up.

We also have first class advantages. Calling this out is perhaps the most adult thing I’ve ever said, but it’s true. My philosophy when it comes to workplaces is that when people spend a significant amount of their time and life working in a company, that company has a responsibility to provide them with a flawless employee experience. Microsoft consistently does this for me.

What did you like about the business school you attended? A big motivator for me to go to business school was to build my business acumen from scratch. I entered my MBA program after literally not taking traditional business courses before. I honestly didn’t even know there was a difference between sales and profits at that point. I hadn’t taken a math class since the first year of college. My bachelor’s degree was art history with a focus on Spanish literature. The list goes on and on.

I was incredibly nervous about how I would fare with people who majored in business or who came from traditional business roles. However, Yale gave me so many resources to keep me up to date: tutors, review sessions, and incredible classmates always ready to help. I started my MBA program at Yale’s “math camp” before the MBA and finished it after completing every single analytics course in the school and earning a focus on management science – a huge turning point.

What does it mean to you to be a “Microsoftie”? To me, being a Microsoftie means that you are great at your job and that you have a passion for your work. What excites you most, however, are the products and experiences we deliver to customers around the world. I work in HR and I’m a few degrees away from my customers and me still Get excited when I hear my friends and family rave about Microsoft products.

Which manager or peer influenced you the most at MSFT and how did he or she improve you in your role? My manager, Dawn Jones, was an incredible connector. When I accepted my Microsoft offer in 2019, I never thought that I would have to work from my apartment for my first year in the role. Dawn was so focused on introducing me to people across the company and making sure I felt included on our team. Your support continues to remind me that strong professional relationships are vital, especially when we work from home.

What has COVID-19 taught you about yourself since you started at MSFT? As clichéd as it is, I am able to do a lot of difficult things at the same time. To get this job done, I had to move across the country in the middle of a global pandemic. There was one point where my fiance and I were sitting in an empty Seattle apartment that we had rented out of sight. We had no wi-fi, no belongings other than what we could fit in a suitcase, limited resources because neither of us had worked since before business school, and nowhere to go because of COVID restrictions because we were after our flight Quarantined from Connecticut. This took 16 days as our moving company was late. I finally had to work at Microsoft the day after our delivery. I was mentally exhausted and wavering from the experience, but I got through it because that was honestly the only option. I look forward to using this experience with my future children as my “Back then we walked three miles in five feet of snow to school” story.



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